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Date: Tue,  2 Sep 2003 17:21:26 -0500
Subject: SPOON-ANN: CFP: Depression -- What Is It Good For?

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The Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts at the
University of Chicago and Feel Tank Chicago

2004 Conference


March 12-13, 2004 at the University of Chicago, Chicago, IL

Depressed? Anxious? Confused?

This conference starts with the premise that these questions are not merely the
province of talk shows and late-night TV commercials. It asks, instead, how we
might use the experience of depression as the very index of our current
political climate and as a key to future political thinking. We see depression
as including such related "bad" feelings as hopelessness, apathy, anxiety,
helplessness, fear, numbness, despair, ambivalence, insecurity, confusion,
indifference, resignation, paralysis, and powerlessness. We suspect that
depression in its many forms has come to suffuse the daily lives and endeavors
of a wide range of people, generating important social and political effects
that we want to examine.

Possible topics include the medicalization of depression, its privatization,
the epidemic of clinical depression among student populations, the relation
between economic and psychological depression, and more locally, the
specificities of depression, and responses to it, in Chicago. Have individuals'
feelings of hope and possibility been diminished by the "triumph" of
capitalism, economic downturns (no longer referred to as "depressions"),
corporate and political scandals, the rise of the security state and increasing
threats to civil liberties, the apparent inevitability of certain social
problems, the limited successes (failures? )of the Left and progressives? How
might focusing on depression help us to understand phenomena like political
nonparticipation, the rise of fundamentalisms, growing consumerism, and the
retreat to the private sphere? More hopefully, we wonder: might depression have
a future in politics?

Ultimately, the conference will work to dispel the notion that disempowerment
is the only prognosis for the depressed or that the goal ought to lie in
"getting happy." Instead, we will ask how depression might be used politically.
In particular, a guiding question will concern the historical specificity of
our own moment: in a time when certain narratives no longer inspire optimism
and when a culture-wide sense of a totalizing despair has started to seem
natural, how might we see the political horizon opening up in new ways?

We are designing this conference to bring together work across disciplinary
divides. Confirmed speakers so far include Lauren Berlant, Melissa Harris-
Lacewell, Ann Cvetkovich and Gregg Bordowitz.

Please send proposals of no more than 250 words, with a cover letter,
postmarked by October 1, 2003, to the following address:

Attn: DEPRESSION Conference
The Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts
The University of Chicago
5845 South Ellis Avenue
Gates-Blake Hall, Room 101-A
Chicago, Illinois 60637

For queries, contact Zarena Aslami at or Debbie Gould at

Finished papers should take 30 minutes. Please do not write your name on your
proposal-we will review them anonymously. Instead, include your name,
institutional and email addresses, and the title of your paper on a separate
cover letter.

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